Prince Ali (193-SG-1996, college: UCLA) is a 193cm guard that was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up in Florida and will be playing his third professional season and first in Germany with the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim. He played his rookie season with at Baerum Basket Bekkestua (Norway-BLNO) averaging 24.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 2.0apg, 1.0spg and last season played with Easycharger Palencia (Spain-LEB Gold) averaging 13.1ppg, 3.1rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 53.9%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 73.7%. He began his basketball career with Pembroke Pines Charter High School and then also got early experience with The Sagemont School and Southern Stampede (AAU). He then played at USC (NCAA) from 2015-2020 playing a total of 114 NCAA games. He spoke to germanhoops.com earlier in the summer about his career. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim recently let him go.
Thanks Prince for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
Currently I am in Thailand. Basketball has been treating me well since the day I picked it up. It’s more of an obsessive hobby these days I must admit.
Congrats on signing with German team Hakro Merlins Crailsheim.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball. A few of your ex UCLA teammates Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton played here in the past.
Thank you. I don’t know much about the country Germany if we are being honest. However, I am open to learning. Just from watching BBL games from prior seasons and speaking to some guys who’ve played in the league, I get the sense that the league is highly competitive, uptempo, and physical.
How were the talks with head coach Sebastian Gleim? What kind of an impression did you get from him? In the Merlins press release you stated you believed the concept of coach Gleim. What about his philosophy was most appealing to you?
Coach from the conversations that we’ve had seems like a pretty straightforward individual. His style of play, along with the role he foresees was one of the major deciding factors for me to join the club.
A little side note. In the last years this club was a huge help aiding guys like Trae Bell-Haynes reach the ACB, Haywood Highsmith reach the NBA again and TJ Shorts be a BBL MVP candidate. Does knowing that give you added self-confidence that your route in the BBL also be positive?
Sure, I am aware. It helps knowing of course, however, ultimately every individual’s path differs. Circumstances and outcomes always play a role. With that being said, I am confident that my experience in the BBL will be positive.
You had a very solid season in the Spanish Leb Gold. What kind of player will the fans see in Prince Ali?
Thank you. With me, fans will see an uptempo, high energy, creative basketball player.
Let’s talk a bit about your game. You’re a 193 cm guard. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the bill?
To compare myself to one individual is quite difficult. I learn from so many. However, Kobe, MJ, Kyrie, Milos Teodosic, CJ Mccollum, Jimmy Butler, Demar Derozan to name a few are some of the players who I absolutely love to watch.
You continue to develop as a scorer and have the advantage that you can play 3 positions. What other strengths does your game incorporate?
I can score if asked of me. A focus of mine currently is developing as a playmaker. Seeing a play develop seconds before it actually happens. I am a good passer now. But I know I can be much better. I can defend now, but it’s the same, I can be better. I rebound okay for my position, but this is also something that is a continuing development. I honestly seek to develop in all aspects of my game.
Your three pointer continues to be a work in progress. How would you classify your three development since finishing in the NCAA? Do you feel like you are on course of becoming a 40% shooter?
I just continue to get reps. And more reps. I’ve improved as a shooter since college. For me, an incremental improvement is a win. At some point, I will eventually shoot 40% and higher from three point land. It could be this year or the following. The reps will remain consistent and we just go from there.
How would you classify your defensive game? What kind of a defender are you at the moment and what kind of defender do you want to be in 2-3 years?
If you ask me, I am an okay defender at this point in my career. If you ask someone else, the answer might be different. I am athletically gifted, with good instinct so I have an advantage. The technicalities and fundamentals of defense are different. I watch some of the best defenders in the game and study their movements and fundamentals. Ron Artest. Jrue Holiday. Jimmy B. Mikal Bridges to name a few. In 2-3 years, I want to be considered one of the best defenders in Europe.
On what areas of your game are you working on most now so you can continue to improve your game?
Every single area where I spot a weakness, I work on it and just continue to get reps.
Last season you played with Easycharger Palencia (Spain-LEB Gold) averaging 13.1ppg, 3.1rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 53.9%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 73.7%. How important was playing your first full season and development of your game? What strides do you feel did your game make in Spain?
Very Important. Major thanks to the coaching staff and my teammates there. I feel from start to finish was a work in progress. The coaches allowed me the opportunity to play freely and this allowed me to become better in so many different areas. This year, I became a better passer! I became a better defender. I feel as if the experience overall was a major success. We had a winning season and made the final four. I can honestly say that throughout the year, I developed as not only a basketball player, but also as a person
What memories will you always have of veteran Bamba Fall? He played in the NCAA and in the D-League. Were you able to have some meaningful chats with him about basketball and life?
Bamba is one of my favorite people in this world. Nothing but love for him. More so than basketball we were really able to connect and have deep meaningful conversations about this life that we all live
You played your rookie season in Norway. How much of an effect did COVID have on you finding a team in 20-21? How tough was it landing in Norway so late?
It was a great experience in Norway. I’m sure covid had an effect, but more a positive effect then negative for me. I was able to learn a lot about who I really am in Norway
You only played 3 games in Norway. What do you remember being your wake up call to being a rookie overseas where you knew that you were far away from home?
Nothing in particular honestly. I was absolutely ready to leave America and experience something different
You had to wait so long to find the Norway job then played 3 games and then the season was over. How tough was the phase leading up to getting the Spain job? Did you have to do some soul searching or did you ever lose faith in the process?
My season ended in Norway prematurely. I decided to move to Africa at that point and start fresh. 6 months. 6 very long months. Soul searching is an understatement. Never lost faith per se. I realized in those moments just how much of a blessing this beautiful game is to my life. The Spain job was a no-brainer. Palencia was the first team to call, and I accepted. Major shoutout to my agent Pedro Cruells ( InterAthletics Management) for navigating that deal
You played at UCLA from 2015-2020. What memories do you have of your freshman year playing along side Aaron Holiday? How competitive was the day to day battles in practice?
Aaron Holiday is one of the best basketball players I’ve ever competed against. He showed me more now in today’s time than then, what an NBA professional looks like. Day to Day was a battle. Everyone was a player.
In your 8th NCAA game you helped beat powerhouse Kentucky 87-77 netting 8 points in 12 minutes. What memories do you have of that game playing against many future NBA players like Jamaal Murray? Was that a game where you knew you had arrived in the NCAA?
I wouldn’t say I arrived. However, the dunk that I made in that game definitely made its rounds. It happened 7 years ago and I still see it. Just yesterday actually.
In 2016-2017 you took a red shirt year because of injury. Despite not playing how did you experience just being a part of the team and seeing Lonzo Ball play his only NCAA season?
Lonzo is another NBA pro that I was able to watch and speak with on a day to day basis. That was a very fun team to be a part of and just watch. That team had a very high tempo. It was a positive learning experience.
You had many great games at UCLA, but where do you rank the exciting win over Oregon where you scored 22 points?
That was a fun game. Probably one of my best games as a Bruin honestly speaking.
You played for a share of coaches with Steve Alford, Murry Bartow and Mick Cronin. How did these guys help groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Everybody is ultimately a teacher, and a student. All three of these individuals taught me invaluable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Who won a 1-1 in practice you or Aaron Holiday
Who was the toughest player that you ever battled on the court that reached the NBA?
A lot of guys man. Jayson Tatum comes to mind. His teammate Jaylen Brown. My former teammate Aaron Holiday. A Lot of different guys
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads?
Did you see the sequel to the classic coming to America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
I actually enjoyed the sequel, man hahahah. Thank you for this interview my man. I appreciate you show this guy some love. Enjoy your summer!
Thanks Prince for the chat